The AfricanFuturist Greenhouse

January 22, 2020

This proposal will combine the African traditions of generative economy with contemporary technology design to create an AfricanFuturist greenhouse. The greenhouse exterior will be designed by local artists from the African American community to provide aesthetic fit to the museum surroundings. The interior will be designed and prototyped by University of Michigan students, such that it can grow the plant materials for bead creation. It will also supply fresh vegetables and, from an aquaponics tank, fresh fish. By using photoelectric and thermal solar energy, as well as a rain catchment system, the team will create a small scale model for what could become a broader set of self-sufficient, sustainable urban practices that restore the links between living, making and growing which is so important to Indigenous traditions. 

Of central importance, these Indigenous traditions of generative economy include reciprocal relations between human and nonhuman value generation. This project will update that using contemporary techniques to grow the feedstock that becomes the beadwork and other adornment sold in the bead museum. Add the technology of solar power, rain catchment, agricultural robotics and AI soil monitoring, and we have a platform for bringing together Detroit economic and resource needs with U-M innovation and experimentation.

Ron Eglash, University of Michigan School of Information
Audrey Bennett, University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design
Olayami Dabls, MBAD/ABA African Bead Museum